Councillors supportive of helping MADRA reduce the number of dogs being put down in the city

An appeal by Galway based dog rescue and adoption group MADRA for €10,000 in funding from Galway City Council has got a positive reaction from councillors. The local authority is also to investigate the possibility of giving further financial aid to the organisation in the years ahead.

At Monday evening's council meeting, representatives from MADRA gave a presentation outlining how the group is reducing the numbers of abandoned dogs being 'put to sleep' in the city and county on an annual basis. The charity works closely with dog pounds in both Galway and Mayo and finds homes for rescued dogs through a network of contacts and adoption days and events. The organisation's Facebook page has more than 30,000 followers.

Significant results have been achieved through this work. In 2005, before MADRA was established, there was a 71 per cent rate of euthanasia among abandoned dogs in the city and an 83 per cent rate of euthanasia in the county. Since the charity's involvement in the rescue of abandoned dogs, the rates have markedly reduced to 47 per cent in the city and 11 per cent in the county.

However although the kill rate has reduced, there is still a considerable problem. 78 dogs were put too sleep in the city in 2013 and 35 were humanely killed in the county.

During the presentation MADRA spokeswoman Eileen Keleghan outlined the constant need for financial support as MADRAs annual running cost is more than €160,000. She also appealed for more access to the city's dog warden and a review of the current out of hours system and the way it is promoted. There was also a call for an improvement in the way records are kept and an online database of found dogs to be developed and updated daily.

A number of councillors sought a breakdown of the charity's running costs. Ms Keleghan outlined the organisation was well run on a tight budget. "We rescue nearly 800 dogs per year. At present, the average time spent by a dog at our rescue facility is 40 days. We have equated that the cost to MADRA for each dog taken from the Galway city pound is €265. A large portion of money is spent on veterinary care as every animal is neutered, vaccinated, and micro-chipped. Other big costs are dog food and diesel for our rescue van which never comes off the road. We have eight part-time staff which equates to 2.5 full-time jobs."

Ms Keleghan acknowledged the sterling work of volunteers without whom the charity would not be able to operate. "The kindness of the people of Galway is keeping us going. Fundraising is extremely difficult, especially in this climate. We get €3,500 from the Department of Agriculture and a small annual sum from both Galway and Mayo county councils."

The presentation ended with an appeal for funding of €10,000 to assist with the cost of caring for the additional dogs taken from Galway City Pound. This money would cover the period until October 2015. It was then asked that this arrangement be reviewed and an annual contribution be agreed. It was outlined that in the region of €30,000 would be needed to bring the dog euthanasia rate in Galway city in line with that of Galway county.

All councillors were hugely supportive of the work being done by MADRA. Councillor Michael Crowe remarked that €10,000 was a small sum to the council in the grand scheme of things. "Galway County Council has an annual budget of €80 million, this is small money in relation to the problem that is obviously there."

Fine Gael's Pearce Flannery is a long time supporter of the work being carried out by MADRA. "I have a good story to tell. We have a labrador cross which we got from MADRA last summer. He is undoubtedly the most treasured thing in our house."

Labour representative Billy Cameron said it was imperative that younger generations were educated in canine care as this was part of addressing the problem. MADRA's Eileen Keleghan outlined that talks are given to children in the county. "Education is key to preventing the problem, as opposed to cleaning up after the problem."

Director of services for environment and recreation, Tom Connell, outlined how the facilities at the city council's dog pound were being upgraded and the local authority would like to build its relationship with MADRA. He said the best option was for the proposal put forward by the charity to be discussed by the Corporate Policy Group (CPG ). He said the group would also come up with a plan for 2016 and in the long term.

The matter was then referred to the CPG. A meeting of that committee takes place on June 1. The issue will come before the council again at the next ordinary monthly meeting on June 8.

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